Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, have become buzzwords recently, gaining significant traction within various sectors of society. This surge in attention reflects a growing awareness of the importance of embracing and prioritizing these principles especially in the nonprofit industry. Creating diversity within a nonprofit organization involves fostering an inclusive environment where individuals from various backgrounds feel valued, respected, safe, and empowered to contribute. Inclusivity encompasses a sense of belonging, where diverse perspectives are not only welcomed, but actively sought out and integrated into decision-making processes. Inclusion requires intentional efforts to dismantle exclusionary practices, promote allyship, and cultivate cultures of belonging.

DEI statements and policies are just the beginning. You want your nonprofit to exude belonging. You want to be a leader not a follower when it comes to social justice and responsibility. You want your organization to be known for inclusivity and equity. Below are some suggested approaches that might make the journey seem not as daunting.

Strategies for Success:

Discover your personal biases and admit your privilege

These are inadvertent and subconscious biases that have been interwoven into our lives. Great article here on bias and leadership. Once you recognize your biases or microaggressions, then you can educate yourself to do better. Also, reflect on your own identity and gain understanding of intersectionality. Equity emphasizes the need to address historical and systemic barriers that have disadvantaged certain groups while privileging others. Achieving equity requires proactive measures to level the playing field and ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, resources, and support systems.

Go beyond a DEI policy and commit to systemic change

Being able to check a box that you have a DEI statement or policy is the bare minimum that is acceptable in today’s world. Your organization needs to live and breathe diversity, equity, and inclusion in its daily efforts. This includes staff, volunteers, board members, and anyone else associated with your organization and the work you do. Ensure your recruitment and hiring practices, promotion and advancement opportunities, and conflict resolution procedures are reflective of your DEI efforts. Focus on addressing systemic inequities rather than solely on symbolic gestures or individual representation.

Hold others accountable

Encourage open dialogue about diversity and inclusion within the organization at all levels. Be okay with being uncomfortable and welcome critical feedback. This is how we all get better and make the nonprofit space safe and accessible for everyone. DEI is not above leadership. Or too much to handle for board members. Or not important enough for volunteers. This accountability is key to organizational growth and developing cultural competency.

Think beyond race

At the heart of DEI is the recognition that every individual possesses unique identities, experiences, and perspectives that shape their interactions with the world. Diversity encompasses these differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, socioeconomic status, and cultural background. Recognizing and valuing diversity means acknowledging and celebrating these differences rather than homogenizing or marginalizing them.

Strive for continuous improvement

Collect data on diversity metrics, such as representation at various levels of the organization, employee engagement, and retention rates. Analyze this data to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. Regularly evaluate DEI initiatives and strategies to assess their effectiveness. Solicit feedback from employees and stakeholders, and be willing to make adjustments and improvements based on this feedback.

Listen and Amplify Voices

Actively listen to the experiences and perspectives of underrepresented employees and community members. Amplify their voices by providing opportunities for them to share their stories, insights, and ideas for improving DEI within the organization.


  • Ensuring diversity in leadership positions (both on board and staff) is just the beginning.
  • Celebrating cultural heritage and pride months is just the beginning.
  • Organizing diversity events is just the beginning.
  • Establishing partnerships with organizations that serve underrepresented groups is just the beginning.
  • Understanding privilege is just the beginning.
  • Identifying and dismantling institutionalized discrimination is just the beginning.

By implementing these strategies, nonprofit organizations can create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that reflects the communities they serve, thus enhancing their impact and effectiveness. Prioritizing systemic change, meaningful representation, and genuine engagement ensures that organizations can implement DEI efforts in a way that goes beyond tokenism and creates lasting impact.

Need help curating your DEI statement and/or DEI-related policies and procedures? Reach out to Arula Consulting to learn how we can help you on your journey.